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Mexico, “Chepo” de la Torre nearing a crisis point; they surely need a big win tonight

Felipe Baloy, Giovani Dos Santos

Panama’s Felipe Baloy, right, holds the arm of Mexico’s Giovani Dos Santos during a World Cup qualifying soccer match in Panama City, Friday, June 7, 2013. The match ended 0-0. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)


One of the region’s heavyweights is looking a little puny these days. They can’t score, the ongoing World Cup bid looks uncomfortably dicey and the coach keeps tinkering with lineups and formations -- not a good sign considering that we are up against the halfway point of final round qualifying.

Remember not so long ago when we were saying all that about the United States?

Well, Jurgen Klinsmann’s team is doing just fine at the moment, thank you very much.

Not so for José Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre and El Tri. Mexico has a win and four ties (1-0-4) in final round qualifying so far. His team may be tied for first along with the United States and Costa Rica, but that game in hand is revealing.

So little is going right for El Tri. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez hasn’t scored since banging in two against Honduras back in March, although that appears to be more about the team around him – a team that has just one goal in its last three qualifiers.

If not for the heroic goalkeeping of Cruz Azul’s Jose de Jesus Corona, Friday’s draw in Panama might have looked quite different.

Most stunning is that Azteca Stadium is looking quite un-fortress-like these days. That 1-0 loss late last summer to the United States in Mexico City may have looked like an outlier, but when held against a scoreless draw with Jamaica to open final round qualifying, and then another scoreless tie against the United States, it looks like an alarming trend for the Tri-Color.

De la Torre has adjusted the lineup, hoping to shake something loose. But Gerardo Torrado suddenly looks all of his 34 years, so his re-introduction looks like a failed bit. Andres Guardado couldn’t problem solve his way out of Panama’s physical play. This piece says Gio dos Santos may have just played his worst match for Mexico.

Talented young players are waiting, but there’s no wiggle room in the final six-team group, so adding them smells like a risk at this point.

No, things aren’t good at all for Mexico, which toggles between formations (4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1) in search of an identity, in search of improved service for Chicharito. All of which points back to one man … the man who needs a big result tonight against confident Costa Rica.

Chepo just hasn’t found that useful mix of young and old the way he did so effectively two years ago in that statement summer, punctuated by the showy Gold Cup win over the United States. It looked like a regional giant was being born – which nudged Sunil Gulati’s decision to make a change in the national team program, adding Jurgen Klinsmann at Bob Bradley’s expense. How different things look now.

This piece says the Mexican manager needs a demonstrative win to keep his job – and considering the demanding fans and officials south of our border, it’s tough to argue the point.